managemnet company strategy managemanet How U.S. Government Agencies Can Fix Their Customer-Service Problem

How U.S. Government Agencies Can Fix Their Customer-Service Problem

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Low-income residents are key to restoring trust in the US government. US residents earning less than $25,000 a year are a staggering 18 percentage points less satisfied with government services than residents with higher incomes. To fix this, federal and state governments can improve the accessibility and reach of their services (for example, a quarter of low-income Americans do not have a smartphone). They can also empower residents to engage by removing complex language and jargon from their communications. Focusing on the customer experience has an amplifying effect. A recent McKinsey study found that “an increase in average customer satisfaction of one percentage point is associated with an increase in trust in state government of 1.3 percent on average, and up to 1.5 percent points in some cases.”

Public confidence in government is at a historic low, influenced in part by rising inequality, political polarization, climate change impacts, and economic downturns at the macro level. In our collective decades of public service, we have witnessed this erosion firsthand. And as governments around the world face a deficit in public trust, recent research from McKinsey, in collaboration with Qualtrics, shows that the decline in trust in the US government is the most severe among low-income residents. According to the study’s findings, low-income US residents earning less than $25,000 a year are a staggering 18 percentage points less satisfied with government services than residents with higher the income. This is of particular concern because these are precisely the individuals most likely to need and rely on government services.

But low trust in government has a negative impact on business. High public confidence is strongly linked to economic prosperity: countries where businesses, governments, and other institutions have built more trust can deliver stronger per capita real GDP growth, business investment, and productivity. A cornerstone of government trust is customer experience: states with higher customer satisfaction rates also share higher levels of trust and voter participation, as well as lower cost of service and low risk of negative public coverage or commentary. However previous research shows satisfaction with government services ranks compared to private sector industries.

Our research and experience working with hundreds of governments around the world suggests a first step to improving customer satisfaction and rebuilding government trust, is to focus efforts on high-risk opportunities. effect to encourage general satisfaction – whether it is critical services such as access to unemployment insurance, or improving experiences for specific groups where satisfaction is the lowest. Low-income residents, who are already facing many challenges, such as the rising cost of living and inflation, are an important starting point to address the lack of public trust in government.

In this article, we outline a three-pronged approach that state, community, and business leaders should consider to improve customer satisfaction: make government interactions accessible, empower residents to -engage, and rebuild public trust in government.

To the People: Making Government Interactions Accessible

The government’s mandate is to serve all citizens, residents, and visitors in a fair and equitable manner. To do this, governments need to better understand and address the factors underlying different levels of customer satisfaction and when and why certain groups and communities are more likely to have negative experiences in their government. According to the McKinsey report: “Even if they can access services, [marginalized] Groups may find it difficult to use formats that are not designed with their specific needs or experiences in mind.

To address this inequity, US states can improve accessibility and reach by designing more consistent and convenient delivery routes. Across all 50 US states and 21 services, 60% of residents reported a strong preference for digital channels, compared to 30% for telephone and 27% for in-person. However, almost 80% of residents reported having to switch channels several times during their trips.

For low-income residents, these challenges are more than easy. A quarter of low-income adults report not owning a smartphone, potentially a major obstacle in their reaching the necessary government services. And while the government’s digital transformation efforts are making strides toward greater technological and digital accessibility, they may ultimately exclude low-income populations that may otherwise be excluded. reliable or easy access to digital devices or the internet. Citizens may need additional or different supports to effectively use digital channels, such as access to affordable, fast internet services, tools, and higher levels of digital literacy. In addition, with approx half of Americans report having no access to public transportationaccessing government services in person is more difficult.

To provide better customer service and rebuild trust in communities where it is lowest, governments must make services more accessible and meet residents where they are. This means using methods like human-centered design to gather and use feedback from residents to fully understand the barriers they face. Regardless of the technique, public servants are on the front lines of making trust stronger – or not. Investing in government employees’ customer experience capabilities is a first step to building trust. Diversifying the workforce is also important help residents see themselves reflected in the diversity of their public servants. Having a visibly diverse workforce is a powerful way to show residents and communities where trust is low that their government is truly “of the people.”

Through the People: Empowering Residents to Participate

Along with complex channel switching, governments are also notorious for using complex language and jargon in critical public communications, such as explaining eligibility criteria for government benefits and services. Using this type of administrative language risks alienating residents, making it difficult to navigate the processes needed to access programs and services. Making government programs and services more accessible and equitable requires not only the use of better communication channels, but also a language that is easily understood by those it serves.

Ensuring that communications are written in plain language helps the government reach all of its citizens, as well as provide those it serves with digestible, navigable information. It also ensures that residents are better able to provide feedback, helping the government continue to improve and improve the customer experience. This is especially important for residents with different levels of education and language skills. In the US, approximately 54% of adults between the ages of 16 and 74 years of age are estimated to have literacy levels below the sixth grade level.

When residents understand government communications, and are able to navigate the processes to access programs and services, they are empowered to engage with their governments and take the initiative to seek services in government they need – a critical step in rebuilding public trust in government. And residents who experience more positive interactions with state services are more likely to participate in civic life: McKinsey research shows a nine percentage point difference in the voting behavior of satisfied customers of state services compared to those without.

Better experiences with government services also save taxpayers money. McKinsey found that “more satisfied customers make fewer phone calls to state contact centers and, in many cases, fewer in-person visits to field offices. By converting dissatisfied customers into satisfied customers, states will see a marked decrease in incoming calls and a corresponding increase in the use of lower-cost channels ( for example, digital) “- that is 40 times cheaper rather than personally providing services. Lowering the cost of service makes good business — for government agencies, for taxpayers, and for service recipients.

For the People: Building Trust in Government

Governments at every level – federal, state, and local – have an opportunity to rebuild public trust at a time when it is at a historic low. With inflation and the cost of living rising, more people than ever are relying on their governments for support, especially low-income residents who are among the hardest hit by these massive changes in economic and social world. With better listening and engagement with the entire community — through clear, plain language communicated through channels accessible and easy to use by residents — governments can better serve all communities and improve the satisfaction of customer.

Focusing on the customer experience has an amplifying effect. The McKinsey study found that “a gain in average customer satisfaction of one percentage point is associated with an increase in trust in state government of 1.3 percentage points on average, and up to 1.5 percent score in some cases…[ing] that some states can see the trust of the constituents doubled by improving the customer experience.

For business leaders, the link between trust in government and economic growth and development is clear. In creating better experiences for those it serves, governments also promote an environment where business innovation and national economic development can flourish. National and global economies, and the businesses that contribute to them, cannot grow in an environment without political and social stability. Investing in strong and effective government is not only a critical risk management strategy for businesses, but an investment in the future and a signal of a vibrant, innovative community in which to live and work.

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